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To many people, prepping seems like some strange world they are scared to enter. It is a land filled with obscure skills and requirements like starting a fire from a spark or skinning a squirrel. Many people shy away because they think the learning curve is too steep. Even many of the ambassadors of the prepping world can be intimidating and even demeaning.
It’s a strange little niche but an effective one.
However, when you really stop and consider what you’re after when it comes to prepping its about 80% food and water management. When you really carve away all the nonsense you find that you are looking to have access to food and water above all else. Now you might want some medicine around too and you may want a gun to protect yourself and your food and water but at the core its food and water.
I entered the prepping world as a chef. I was a chef for about 5 years when I first started researching the prepping world. At the time, I had no idea what an advantage this gave me. I had been working in the food industry since I was 13 and knew most of what you could know about preparing foods and food safety.
It’s easy to say I took cooking from scratch for granted. I took its immense power for granted. For many years I thought everyone walked up to a meat counter and knew just what they wanted and how they would prepare it. Now I know there is a huge gap. It’s the gap in understanding nutrition and from scratch cooking.
This is as integral to prepping as anything else and I would argue a thorough understanding of cooking basics is one of the most important aspects of prepping, period.
Self Reliant Food Preparation – Cooking from Scratch
Understanding Cooking Methods
A cook’s power comes from their understanding of heat and the various cooking methods. When you have an understanding of these cooking methods you can make any cut of meat or any vegetable into something magic.
They take practice, like all things, but in knowing them you open your world up. You also open your ability to do more with less and that is crucial in times of need.
DRY COOKING METHODS
When you bake you use the dry heat from the heating element in the oven to cook the food. Most people have baked and it’s a pretty simple cooking method to understand. One thing people don’t understand is temperature variability with baking. You don’t have to bake everything at 350.
Roasting a chicken might be best done at 400 degrees for the first 10 minutes and dropped to 300 until the bird is done.
Broiling is a method which uses extremely high heat from above a food item. This method is often used for finishing foods or for cooking foods that are thin or cook fast like fish.
While you might think of frying as a wet cooking method just consider the relationship between oil and water. It’s a very dry cooking method. It is great for dealing with batters which is another simple water flour mix that might be more useful when resources are sparse.
This dry cooking method uses a thin amount of oil and very high heat. Learning to sauté is a great way to cook food fast. Its similar to the Chinese method of wok cooking. This method of cooking was actually developed to use little gas and little fat.
It will require that you spend some time cutting ingredients into small pieces. These small pieces will cook quickly.
Similar to sauté the method of panfry means that your food is covered ½ way by cooking oil. That is the difference. This is often used to cook larger pieces of meat or bone-in meat in a pan on the stove top. This could be very beneficial if you are out of power and have only a camping stove to work with.
WET COOKING METHODS
The act of cooking with steam is very gentle. It can be magic on things like vegetables that benefit from a light cooking method. Having a metal basket with holes and a lid to match will give you the ability to steam effectively.
Cooking in simmering water is the act of poaching. You probably have heard of things like poached eggs and chicken. This is another gentle cooking method that gives you the ability to cook a food item without browning or roasting it. Poached chicken can be great in soups. You might also want to poach something like pears in red wine and sugar.
This is a very special cooking method. It is like magic. You can take a cut of meat that is less than desirable and make it meltingly tender. This is one of those cooking methods you need to get good at, so you can eat things like tails, feet, and shanks when good meat is not around.
Braising is the act of searing a tough piece of meat on all sides, placing it in a deep ovenproof pot and filling it 2/3 of the way with liquid. You will bring this liquid to a boil and then cover it and the whole thing in a slow oven. Braising usually takes hours.
Stewing is similar to braising, but the meat is cut in smaller pieces and covered by liquid completely. This is another method of making tough meat easier on the teeth and more palatable. Its an essential cooking method for the survivor.
So many preppers are sitting on hard winter wheat. Years ago it was all anyone talked about. Having your 50lb bags of hard red winter wheat was part of the prepper ethos. I always wondered how many of those who made that purchase had any idea what to do with that wheat.
Do you make dough on a regular basis? Do you do it by hand? These are questions you should ask yourself.
The mastering of dough is so important and if you think its just important for bread making you need to think again.
All of these and more start as dough. Once you understand how to make a basic dough you will be able to translate those skills into any other type of dough. One of the best to start with is pizza dough. It’s easy to make and everyone loves eating it, even when it’s not so good!
Another important thing to consider about mastering dough is that leavening happens naturally. Yeast can very easily be harvested out of the air. This makes risen bread much more of an interesting proposition in a collapsed world.
While the nation is gripped by the threat of GLUTEN, I encourage you to start working dough with your hands and getting very comfortable mixing water and flour to make something magic!
Basic Leavened Dough Recipe
- 4 Cups of flour
- 1 Tbsp of salt
- ½ Cup of warm water
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 packet of dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
Begin by putting your flour in a large bowl and mixing it with the salt. Create a well in the flour mix and pour in your hot water. Don’t let the water flow out of the well. Add your yeast and sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Then add your olive oil.
Begin to slowly break the sides of your well, a little at a time, adding flour to the mix. Use a fork to do this. The mixture will get stodgy first and then it will start to become a dough. Once you have a sticky dough you can turn it out onto a floured table.
Add flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and knead that dough for 8 minutes. Work out all your aggression on this dough. I like to push my palms into the dough in a forward motion until it gets sticky, then fold it over and do that again. You will find your own rhythm.
Let the dough rest at least 15 minutes in a warm place.
This can be used to make focaccia, pizza dough, crusty rolls or breadsticks. It’s a great starter dough and cheap to make so don’t worry about messing up.
Prepping is a many-faceted undertaking. Truth is, it can be overwhelming. It’s important to enter with a long-term mindset. You cannot buy your way into self-reliance and independence and that’s the best route toward true preparedness.
Maybe you don’t enjoy some of the other aspects of prepping like bushcraft or tactical training. Cooking is one of those skills that you can practice at least 3 times a day! There is no other skill like it that you can put that kind of time into. The capability for mastery is right there for the taking.
Only a tiny percentage of people are going to be able to shoot every day or even start a fire every day. Cooking is a skill that we all need someone to do. The moment you take the reins on, from scratch, cooking starts you down a path of self-sufficiency on which there is no turning back. It’s like having a new superpower!
James Walton is the host of the I AM Liberty Show (www.iamlibertyshow.com) a podcast about 21st-century freedom. He is a freelance writer in the prepping and survival niche and likes to keep a healthy balance between prepping and enjoying life.